Max Verstappen is the unquestionable dominant force in Formula 1, claiming victories from race to race with relative ease in the RB19 machine – emerging as the one certainty for F1 news outlets in 2023.
An early hiccup during qualifying in Saudi Arabia (where a reliability issue ruled him out of Q2) was the first and only time the Verstappen-Red Bull combination has shown any weakness in 2023.
Unlike the start of last season, when reliability issues and a competitive Ferrari gave Red Bull plenty of headaches, the Austrian team faces no major challengers this year.
Although the super performance of Aston Martin captured the headline in Bahrain, the supremacy of Adrian Newey and Peter Wache’s RB19 was probably the biggest development from the first round.
Fernando Alonso’s podium – though an impressive feat for team Silverstone – showed the failures of Ferrari and Mercedes in their development over the winter.
Red Bull capitalised on their immediate rivals dropping the ball; to such an extent that the team which finished 7th in 2022 became their closest challenger.
McLaren’s resurgence and improvements from Maranello and Brackley have slightly changed this dynamic, though the general point still remains.
Speaking post-race in Belgium, Verstappen admitted to managing his pace:
“I did slow down. Of course, you know, we all look at the numbers,” the-race.com quotes him as saying.
“We look at the wear of the tyre, and this track is super hard on the tyres, so you don’t want to do any unnecessary things.
“So that’s what we did until the end.”
This is very similar to how the Bahrain GP unfolded, where a dominant Red Bull focused primarily on reliability – ordering both drivers to slow down and bring the car home.
Although several teams have challenged the RB19 in qualifying, the team based in Milton Keynes has no rivals on Sunday.
With Max Verstappen collecting race wins relentlessly in the 2023 campaign so far, it remains to be seen if upgrades elsewhere can begin to close the gap.
Red Bull seems to have minimised the damage from any wind tunnel reductions, although perhaps the next few months will show some of the development constraints Adrian Newey and his team are navigating.
Author: Jaden Diaz-Ndisang